Delaware moves whipping post from public square that was used until the ’50s

The state was the last in the nation to outlaw the practice in 1972.

You may wonder why in the world a whipping post ever existed in a public square in America post-slavery.

And then, you might wonder, well after its use was outlawed, why it remained in that public square for another 70 years, in full view of anyone passing by on a daily basis.

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That is the question residents of Georgetown, Delaware must have asked before the protests in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor generated a national and global racial reckoning not seen in decades.

A protester holds up a sign that reads “We Never Left Jim Crow” during a protest sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody on May 29, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Some of those protests targeted still existing symbols of racism including monuments and statues to Confederate leaders and others who had played a role in subjugating Black people.

That outrage played a role in the removal of a whipping post that had existed outside Delaware’s Suffolk County courthouse this week but not before its horrific history was revealed.


As reported by Philadephia’s ABC station, WPVI, the 8-foot tall whipping post was used up until the ’50s to publicly punish people convicted of crimes. According to the state’s  Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (HCA) it remained in use until 1952 and African-Americans were the ones who were punished that way more often than others.

Delaware, the nation’s first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, was also a slave slate. Freedom fighter Harriet Tubman escaped from Maryland to Delaware via their shared border and the Underground Railroad but had to continue on to Pennsylvania to live as a free woman.

“It is appropriate for an item like this to be preserved in the state’s collections, so that future generations may view it and attempt to understand the full context of its historical significance,” HCA Director Tim Slavin told ABC. “It’s quite another thing to allow a whipping post to remain in place along a busy public street – a cold, deadpan display that does not adequately account for the traumatic legacy it represents, and that still reverberates among communities of color in our state.”

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Delaware did not outlaw the practice of whipping as punishment until 1972, the last state to do so. The post will be stored and preserved in an HCA facility so that it can be determined how to present it in its proper historical context in a museum.

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